UK weather: May was sunniest month since records began, Met Office says

Conrad Duncan
People enjoy the hot weather on Clapham Common, London, as people are being reminded to practise social distancing: PA

The UK's exceptionally dry and warm May was the sunniest month in the country since records began, the Met Office has said.

Meteorologists said England also saw its driest May on record and Wales saw its second driest, with just 17 per cent of average rainfall for the month in both countries, according to records which stretch back to 1862.

The Met Office added the UK had seen its sunniest spring, according to records dating back to 1929, with 626 hours of bright sunshine beating the previous high of 555 hours in 1948.

Last month's 266 hours of sunshine beat the previous record for a calender month - 265 hours in June 1957.

Overall, 2020 has seen the fifth driest spring for the UK and the eight warmest.

This year’s dry and sunny spring was a dramatic shift from the recent wet winter, which saw record-breaking rainfall in February.

The Met Office said it had recorded the largest difference in rainfall between winter from December to February and spring from March to May this year.

“The most remarkable aspect is just how much some of the May and spring records for these climate statistics have been exceeded,” said Dr Mark McCarthy, the head of the Met Office's National Climate Information Centre.

“Exceeding the UK sunshine record is one thing, but exceeding by over 70 hours is truly exceptional.”

Dr McCarthy added: “The sunshine figures for spring would even be extremely unusual for summer and only three summers would beat spring 2020 for sunshine hours.

“The principal reason for the dry and sunny weather is the extended period of high pressure which has been centred over or close to the UK.”

The combination of dry, sunny weather and the coronavirus lockdown has put pressures on the country's water demand, prompting industry body Water UK to urge the public to reduce its water consumption.

In the exceptional conditions, water companies have seen a huge rise in demand for water from households, particularly in the evenings, with use up by 20 per cent and some areas seeing peak demand of up to 40 per cent above normal for the time of year.

However, the wet winter has meant hosepipe bans in the future are unlikely.

“These are exceptional times and the record-breaking dry weather is a powerful reminder of what a precious, natural resource our water is,” Christine McGourty, Water UK’s chief executive, said.

“With so many people at home and enjoying their gardens, water companies are seeing record demand for water, which can cause issues with water pressure.

“Working together, we can all make a difference right now, so let's use water wisely.”

Ms McGourty noted that people should not use less water for hygiene purposes during the Covid-19 pandemic but they could cut their consumption in other ways.

“We need to keep washing our hands, but make other small changes to our water use, for example cutting back on paddling pools and sprinklers, particularly at the peak times in the evening,” she said.

Additional reporting by PA

Read more

Temperatures to peak at 29C this week after sunniest spring on record

Climate change may kickstart a dormant El Niño system in Indian Ocean

Warmest winter day on record beaten for second time this week

Reductions in air pollution ‘could lead to warmer weather'

Britain braces for hottest day of year as public reminded to distance

9 best sun loungers for basking in the heat this summer